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Beep-beep mm'beep-beep, yeah! - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Beep-beep mm'beep-beep, yeah!
I'm in love! I have so much New Relationship Energy that it's leaking out of my ears... And I'm boring everybody else around me to death by being unable to talk about anything but the new object of my affections.

So who is this new love? Well, she's fifty years old in a couple of weeks' time. She's a vision in shiny black metal, shiny chrome, and red leather. She's the most beautiful, curvy thing I've ever seen. She's a 1953 Series II Morris Minor, and she's mine, all mine.


We went out to Haverhill on Saturday to pick her up -- I'd been looking forward to it all week, but when it actually came to driving her away I was terrified. The car is so utterly different from anything I've ever driven before... it's a whole new world. Major differences that I can see/feel:

- No seatbelts. Okay, this doesn't affect the way the car handles or anything, but after 25 years of seatbelt-wearing, that "clunk-click" is pretty firmly ingrained, and it's very strange driving without it.

- The gears. Oh, dear god, the gears. She's only got 4 gears; and the gear-stick is long and, well, flappy. There's no indication of where each gear is, you just have to feel for them -- and sometimes they're pretty elusive. Reverse gear is apparently not even in the same set of dimensions as the rest of the gears, requiring a bizarre lift-and-shift-and-think-it-into-place manoeuvre which only works 8 times out of 10.

- The brakes. I don't know if it's the difference between drum brakes and disc brakes, or just that she's a bit old and worn, but I'm having to seriously readjust my braking distance. Don't get me wrong, the brakes work, they're just a lot softer than I'm used to.

- Starting the car. Turn ignition key, pull starter. Remember how choke works. Get confused about why turning key doesn't start the car. :-) In an emergency, I have a starter-handle for her, which should at least provide entertainment for passers-by watching me trying to start the car...

- The indicators: she doesn't have any. Instead, she has trafficators, so I have to remember to switch the indicator off after each turn or lane-change, otherwise the little flag just stays out. This is taking a lot of getting used to...

- The mirrors. She doesn't have any wing-mirrors, though to be honest the all-round visibility is so good that I think I'll get used to that pretty fast. The rear-view mirror, though, is tiny -- it's not a huge problem (and a bigger rear-view wouldn't be much help as the rear windscreen is tiny too!) but it's a bit disorientating.

- The speed. Apparently her top speed is 62mph, but I don't think I managed to get her above 50 (though I was carrying a passenger...) and that was only when going downhill! She was definitely straining to get uphill, and doing a hill start was ... entertaining.

The drive back from Haverhill, trying to accustom myself to all this newness, was the most terrifying thing I've ever voluntarily done. Most of the journey back (with a long-suffering daneel_olivaw as passenger, and following a very patient sion_a -- who kept nipping into laybys etc. to wait for us!) was spent muttering to the car ("Come on, good car, you can make it, it's only a little hill...") or yelling at her ("Argh! Where the fuck is third gear?!"). By the time we got within Cambridge city, I was changing gears (mostly) without mangling the synchromesh, and driving a bit more confidently, but I was shaking by the time I eventually got out of the car at home (having even managed to drive her in through our gate, which is quite a performance at the best of times).

Driving her is strangely addictive, though, and I couldn't resist taking the car to lnr and ewx's party that same day -- not just to show her off, but because I genuinely wanted to drive her again. Unfortunately when I came to switch the lights on the front left headlamp bulb died, but given that all the streets on the way over there were well-lit I drove it anyway with sidelights and one headlamp. This obviously isn't a long-term solution, though, and a new bulb is one of the first things on the (increasingly long) shopping list.

The drive into work this morning was mostly fine, apart from the fog (which just meant that everybody else was driving slowly as well!) and a couple of annoying "Come on, there's a gear in here somewhere" moments.

There are, of course, a number of things that need fixing, tweaking, checking, and so on:

- The steering drags very slightly to the left. This is the only potentially-really-serious problem that the car seems to have, and it's certainly not something I think I can fix on my own.

- If I want to run the car on unleaded petrol (and I do), I'm going to have to pay something in the region of £150 to get a new cylinder head, with hardened valve seats and stems. To be honest, even ignoring the important environmental issues, it's worth paying that just so I don't have to drive to Wisbech (the only place in Cambs with a garage that sells actual leaded petrol) every time I want to fill up.

- Seatbelts. Legally the car isn't required to have them, because of its age. I don't want to destroy the authenticity of the car, but at the same time I don't want to die. I'm going to ask somebody who knows what they're doing how much (if anything) they'll knock the value of the car, and weigh up the pros and cons (and the cost!). I certainly don't feel comfortable not having a seatbelt at the moment, and I'm not sure it's something I want to get comfortable with -- mind you, it's nice to be able to tell the people who call me a "cager" that actually I don't have shedloads of safety features (though I'd drive just as carefully if I did have them).

- The speedometer doesn't work, which is annoying -- there's very little chance of me being able to exceed the speed limit, but I prefer to know what speed I'm doing. Hopefully it's just a loose connection somewhere though, and if it isn't, I should be able to get a new (well, old/reconditioned) one without too much difficulty/expense.

- There are a couple of bits of rust that need looking at sooner rather than later. Neither looks seriously bad at the moment, but prevention is better than cure.

- The driver's door is hanging a bit low; closes fine but spoils the line a bit. The hinges all seem solid so hopefully it's just a question of adjusting rather than replacing.

...

Now for the silly stuff. This car clearly needs a name. :-) I've put some photos of her on my website so that you can see what she looks like. Basically I'd like a name that's cute but not naff; preferably not too out-of-place for a 1950s girl; not too prim and proper but also not too showy; I feel she should really have an English name since she's a very English car; and she can't be called Felicity (as that's the name of the Morris Minor belonging to the chairwoman of the Cambridge Morris Minor Owners Club, and I don't want to tread on any toes). People have already made some suggestions so I've included those, but don't feel limited by them -- I'm open to suggestions.

(By the way, she really needs a name before her 50th birthday [11/3/03]. And yes, I intend to have a party for her, and yes, I know what I'm getting her for her birthday. :-)

Poll #105585 Car with no name...

Okay, so what should I call her?

Darrell
1(7.1%)
Debbie
0(0.0%)
Doris
1(7.1%)
Josephine
1(7.1%)
Lauren
0(0.0%)
Lucy
4(28.6%)
Margot
1(7.1%)
Monica
1(7.1%)
Peggy Sue
2(14.3%)
Pandora
1(7.1%)

Other:

Reason (if any) for your choice:



Other silly stuff: I want a nodding badger to sit in the back windscreen. If anybody has a nodding dog that they're willing to part with so that I can customise it accordingly (as I don't think nodding badgers exist!) then please let me know. :)

Current Mood: bouncy

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Comments
reddragdiva From: reddragdiva Date: February 24th, 2003 04:39 am (UTC) (Link)
For running your car on unleaded, you should be fine if you fill it with leaded every few tanks. I'm sure there are unspeakable quantities of information available on the subject.

This reminds me of my dear friend frou_frou and her fondness for old cars. Although she did fall for the siren call of recent models with these newfangled 'technological improvements' and 'stuff that works' and so on. Her current vehicle is a 1970s BMW.

('Verity' is good, but I still prefer 'Lucy'.)
j4 From: j4 Date: February 24th, 2003 07:05 am (UTC) (Link)
For running your car on unleaded, you should be fine if you fill it with leaded every few tanks. I'm sure there are unspeakable quantities of information available on the subject.

Indeedy. Looks like the options are:

- Use leaded petrol all the time. This isn't really a viable option since the nearest petrol station that does genuine leaded is in Bury St Edmunds, for fuck's sake. Admittedly I could go there and buy gallons and gallons of petrol in big buckets, and fill her up by hand at home, but that seems a bit stupid when there are other options.

- Use leaded every now and then, use something else the rest of the time. Stockpiling petrol at home would actually make this a viable solution, and vice versa.

- Use unleaded with lead-additive, valve-lubricating stuff. Apparently Castrol Valvemaster is what I'm after here. ("Valvemaster" sounds incredibly rude, now I come to think of it.)

- Use unleaded and hope for the best. Apparently engines which have been run on lead have a reasonable "lead memory" and if you don't thrash the engine too much [fx: laughter] you should be okay for a while. Main problem with this option is that I have no idea how long "a while" is likely to be, and wouldn't necessarily know how to tell if it was going wrong until, I dunno, the engine exploded or whatever.

- New cylinder-heads. 150 quid isn't really that much to pay for a long-term solution that would let me not have to worry about the petrol. Though add on some money for fitting (I am a complete novice at car-maintenance, I'm looking forward to learning but no way am I replacing cylinder-heads myself any time soon), and the faff required to get the car to Wisbech or wherever-the-hell-in-the-middle-of-the-godforsaken-fens the local moggy mechanic hides.

This reminds me of my dear friend frou_frou and her fondness for old cars. Although she did fall for the siren call of recent models with these newfangled 'technological improvements' and 'stuff that works' and so on.

Hey, most of the things in my car work, and those that don't are fixable. As for "technological improvements", it's incredible really to think that even after 50 years of such "improvements" nobody's really managed to come up with a commercially-viable alternative to the internal combustion engine. The things that she's missing are mostly things I can do without -- who needs a heater when you've got one bit of metal between yourself and the engine? Who needs courtesy lights when you can keep a mini-maglite in your pocket? :)

The thing that's currently puzzling me is that the car has an aerial for no apparent reason. It looks like it should have a radio, but if it does then there's no apparent way to switch it on and off, much less tune it. But it would be so cool to actually have a radio -- I mean, a wireless -- in the car.

Did I mention that I'm turning into a complete and utter bore about this car?

Her current vehicle is a 1970s BMW.

1970s? Bah! Modern rubbish! (Says the girl who was born in 1978...)

('Verity' is good, but I still prefer 'Lucy'.)

'Lucy' is cute. :)
mobbsy From: mobbsy Date: February 24th, 2003 07:44 am (UTC) (Link)
There's fairly strict regulations about storage of petrol. Basically you're limited to 20 litres in 2x10 litre metal jerrycans.
wintrmute From: wintrmute Date: February 24th, 2003 12:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
be warned that there are more differences between leaded and unleaded petrol, than just the lead content.
In particular: Octane levels.

Leaded petrol has a higher octane level than unleaded. If you want to run your car on unleaded petrol you need to do either
a) Use Premium Unleaded (hi-octane)
or
b) have the car re-tuned to have less timing advance, and then use unleaded petrol.

If you choose option (b), you will have reduced engine power.. and by the sounds of it, it's low enough to start with. :(

However if you don't get the timing adjusted, and DO run on standard unleaded, then you risk badly damaging the engine thru premature detonation. (Probably hard to hear under the rest of the engine noise in an older car)


My advice is: Get the new cylinder head, and while you're at it, it probably won't cost much extra to get enlarged valves and ports.
Immediately after getting the new head, fill the car with premium unleaded, and get it tuned up perfectly.

You should find you get noticeably more power than you had previously.
If you're cheap, then go with standard unleaded, but you'll still need the retune; you can always swap to premium (and new tuneup) later.

As for the floppy gearstick: This is usually due to a worn bush on the selector forks. (It's a rubber thingo that has probably completely deteriorated by now.) Get this replaced, and the gearstick should become *much* more certain, and make driving a lot easier.

Re the door: Yes, that should just be a matter of adjusting the hinge mounts. (Assuming the slant isn't due to a warped chassis)

Re the pulling-left: My bets are on you requiring new ball joints on the front wheels, prior to a wheel alignment. (I'm assuming the steering rack is fine -you'd probably know if it was playing up)
However, do check the tyre pressures are equal first.. also, if you have one of the models with the wierd alcohol-based suspension, check the levels and flush and replace with fresh fluid.

Enjoy your vintage motoring :)
-Toby
j4 From: j4 Date: February 25th, 2003 07:27 am (UTC) (Link)
be warned that there are more differences between leaded and unleaded petrol, than just the lead content.
In particular: Octane levels.


The lead-additive stuff that I've bought (Castrol Valvemaster Plus) provides an octane boost as well, so hopefully that will suffice until I can get a more long-term solution.

My advice is: Get the new cylinder head, and while you're at it, it probably won't cost much extra to get enlarged valves and ports.

This seems like... well, like cheating, somehow. I don't want to make the engine more powerful than it is, I just want to be able to use petrol that I can actually buy without major faff. If there was somewhere nearby that sold full-fat^Wleaded petrol I probably wouldn't be changing the car at all.

As for the floppy gearstick: This is usually due to a worn bush on the selector forks. (It's a rubber thingo that has probably completely deteriorated by now.) Get this replaced, and the gearstick should become *much* more certain, and make driving a lot easier.



It sounds from other MM drivers/owners as if the gearstick isn't actually any worse than expected, so it may just be that I'm not used to it. Will investigate though. (Is this the sort of thing I could do myself? Bearing in mind that I'm a total novice at this kind of thing...)

Re the door: Yes, that should just be a matter of adjusting the hinge mounts. (Assuming the slant isn't due to a warped chassis)

I'd be really surprised if it was that, because the chassis is generally in such good condition... but what's the best way to check?

Re the pulling-left: My bets are on you requiring new ball joints on the front wheels, prior to a wheel alignment. (I'm assuming the steering rack is fine -you'd probably know if it was playing up)

While driving her around last night I noticed that the steering wasn't always pulling left; it seemed to depend on the road, as if the car was really hypersensitive to any camber on the road. That does rather suggest (to me, at least) that it's the wheels rather than the steering rack.

However, do check the tyre pressures are equal first..

Yes, that's high up the list. Couldn't find a tyre pressure gauge in Halfords though (is it just me, or are Halfords really shit?) though their website suggests that they do do them -- will look again, or look in Mackays when I get a chance.

also, if you have one of the models with the wierd alcohol-based suspension, check the levels and flush and replace with fresh fluid.

No alcohol AFAIK...

Thanks for all the suggestions, anyway!
wintrmute From: wintrmute Date: February 25th, 2003 08:14 am (UTC) (Link)
My advice is: Get the new cylinder head, and while you're at it, it probably won't cost much extra to get enlarged valves and ports.

This seems like... well, like cheating, somehow. I don't want to make the engine more powerful than it is, I just want to be able to use petrol that I can actually buy without major faff. If there was somewhere nearby that sold full-fat^Wleaded petrol I probably wouldn't be changing the car at all.


Well, maybe think of it as creating the romanticised ideal of your car? The way the designers would have wanted it to be, before budget constraints and so forth..
Also, leaded petrol is bad! Nasty stuff..



As for the floppy gearstick: This is usually due to a worn bush on the selector forks. (It's a rubber thingo that has probably completely deteriorated by now.) Get this replaced, and the gearstick should become *much* more certain, and make driving a lot easier.

It sounds from other MM drivers/owners as if the gearstick isn't actually any worse than expected, so it may just be that I'm not used to it. Will investigate though. (Is this the sort of thing I could do myself? Bearing in mind that I'm a total novice at this kind of thing...)


Well, all the other MMs are the same age as yours, too - so they'll all have deteriorated about the same amount. Since it's a very gradual decay, people don't really notice the change; until someone gets it back to how it was when it came out of the factory fifty years ago. Again, think of it as returning the car to how it was meant to be.
As for DIY.. It's the sort of thing that an amateur mechanic would find easy, but perhaps not something for beginners. It's easy to do.. maybe just ask your garage to do it at the same time as they change the head.. compared to changing the head, it's only a moments work.


While driving her around last night I noticed that the steering wasn't always pulling left; it seemed to depend on the road, as if the car was really hypersensitive to any camber on the road. That does rather suggest (to me, at least) that it's the wheels rather than the steering rack.

That indicates it's definately the ball-joints or steering rack then!

Sorry i can't comment on Halfords or Mackays.. Neither existed where I came from.

Anyway, there you go.. Hope things go well,

Toby
bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: February 24th, 2003 05:56 am (UTC) (Link)

How did I guess?

I mentioned to DH that "someone" was getting a new car, and from the way they were raving about it I thought it might just be a Moggy. And it is! I should have put it in writing, shouldn't I? :D

The second car I ever drove was my friend's Moggy - she used to give me a lift to work every day when I was just 17, so after I drove the boss's car (a Jaguar XJS) around the estate, she let me drive Milly too. I fell in love. If I hadn't gone off to college that autumn and been skint for the next umpteen years, I'd have bought one myself. (They had the most gorgeous black shiny shiny four-door Mog in the local car showroom that summer, and I walked two miles a day out of my way just to pass her... but she was always unaffordable. But I could have bought one from the guy that maintained Karen's for about £200 - this was 1989 though. I really wish I had bought one, even though I never did get as far as my test.)
j4 From: j4 Date: February 24th, 2003 06:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: How did I guess?

I mentioned to DH that "someone" was getting a new car, and from the way they were raving about it I thought it might just be a Moggy. And it is! I should have put it in writing, shouldn't I?

Nah, I believe you.

I could have bought one from the guy that maintained Karen's for about £200 - this was 1989 though. I really wish I had bought one, even though I never did get as far as my test.

Well, you could buy one now and learn on it... :-) though not for as little as £200 unless you want a big restoration project. The price guide in Minor Matters suggests that you're looking at £1500 and upwards for any type of moggy in "condition 2" (good condition, capable of everyday use without excessive maintenance). For cars in "condition 3" (mostly good condition, but will need a fair amount of restoration to get it usable for everyday) you may be able to get something for as little as £400 (depending on what model/year/etc. of moggy you're looking for), but you'll be pouring money into it to get it to a point where you can sensibly use it as a car rather than as a toy.

(And yes, I know where my spare cash is going to be going from now on... but she's worth it!)
ewx From: ewx Date: February 24th, 2003 11:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I once forgot to put my seatbelt on when driving - it does feel very strange.
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: February 24th, 2003 06:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Miss McKnight, I award you 20,000 nice-mad points. :-)

My first thought is that that doesn't remind me so much of a car as a joyriding machine - and I don't mean joyride in it's modern "taken without owner's consent" context. I hope that it brings you much pleasure and that the very sage-looking advice you've received above in the thread turns out to be wise after all.

Do you have to do "double declutching" at all? I'm not sure what that is, but I vaguely associate it with old cars. I don't know whether 1953 is the right sort of age for double declutching, but it might be an issue. Likewise, I don't know what trafficators are and how they differ from indicators.

You didn't mention the registration plates! I am most amused that you have those contemperaneous registration plates. How wonderful.

Oh, and was the title of your pictures page another Shooting Stars reference; does your wonderful car fire questions out of its exhaust?

I wish you very many happy, safe miles together! :-)
j4 From: j4 Date: February 25th, 2003 07:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Do you have to do "double declutching" at all? I'm not sure what that is, but I vaguely associate it with old cars. I don't know whether 1953 is the right sort of age for double declutching, but it might be an issue.

Double-declutching is basically doing an intermediate gear change into neutral between any two gears, rather than being able to go from gear to gear -- i.e. clutch down, neutral, clutch up, clutch down, $gear, clutch up. I gather that it's not uncommon for cars from that era to need it, but the moggy is a "modern" car :) and has synchromesh, so I shouldn't need to double declutch. Occasionally, though, it seems to get a bit tangled up while trying to get back into first from another gear, and double declutching seems to help.

Likewise, I don't know what trafficators are and how they differ from indicators.

Trafficators are like little flags (with lights in) that pop out of the side of the car. :) I will get a photo of them at some point... in the meantime, fortunately somebody else has a picture on the web showing a Morris Minor's trafficators. Of course, they don't automatically switch themselves off as the wheels straighten up, which means I have a dreadful tendency to forget that they're on at all.

You didn't mention the registration plates! I am most amused that you have those contemperaneous registration plates. How wonderful.

Well, of course she's got her original registration plates! I wouldn't dream of changing them, not even for a registration plate like "J4 NET".

Oh, and was the title of your pictures page another Shooting Stars reference; does your wonderful car fire questions out of its exhaust?

Well spotted -- no, she doesn't actually fire questions out of her bottom, though. But she's a much more wonderful car than their Wonderful Car. :)

I wish you very many happy, safe miles together!

Thank you! I'm already missing her, having had to leave her at home today. :-/ Tucked her up in her bed tarpaulin last night, though, so I know she's as safe and warm as she can be. ... Yes, I'm daft about her.
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